He, She, and It, by Marge Piercy (also known as Body of Glass). Outside the Charmed Circle, by Misha Magdalene. Powers That Be and Power Lines, by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough.
He, She, and It, by Marge Piercy
This was written in 1991, so some of the ideas about the internet didn’t come to fruition in the way that was described in the book, but the ideas about climate change are pretty realistic. The chief strength and interest of the book is in its characters and setting: the people and the town of Tikva, a free Jewish settlement on the shore of North America. The shore has moved inland and there are drowned cities to the east. The town is sheltered by a wrap, some sort of dome that protects people from the ultraviolet (in this future, the ozone layer was irrevocably damaged by CFCs) and the extreme heat. The town is also threatened by the many corporations that want to swallow it up (governments have all collapsed so the main powers in the world are corporations).
The story is interspersed with episodes from the story of the Golem of Prague, and how the great Rabbi Loew’s creation helped to save the people of the ghetto from a pogrom.
The big question at the centre of the book is, if you create something (a golem or an android) to kill, can it ever transcend or escape its nature? Can an android or a golem be a person in the full sense of the word?
There are so many interesting characters in the book: Malkah, who tries to give the android a conscience and a more rounded personality; Avram, the creator of the android; the android himself; Nili, from Israel, who is an artificially-enhanced human (to provide a contrast with the android). I didn’t find the central character, Shira, all that convincing, but she is more than made up for by Malkah. I also enjoyed being immersed in a Jewish perspective on the world for a bit.
Outside the Charmed Circle, by Misha Magdalene
This book is truly excellent and needs to be added to your library of Pagan books. Misha explains gender and sexuality really clearly, and then gently leads the reader into an exploration of their own gender and how to weave that into magical practice and spirituality. In their review of my books, Misha said that they might not have written Outside the Charmed Circle if they had read Dark Mirror and The Night Journey first. I’m very glad they did write it, because we need more books like this, and because their book is actually doing a different job than my books. My books are written on the assumption that the reader gets the multivalence of gender, and offers inclusive practices based on that. Misha’s book invites the reader to explore gender and sexuality in magic, based on Misha’s degree in gender studies and extensive knowledge and experience of both Wicca and the Feri tradition. I love their writing style: there’s a bit in the acknowledgment about how Heather Greene, the editor, occasionally had to wrest the snark-hammer from Misha’s hands. I also have a snark-hammer and occasionally have to be told to put it down, so I liked that bit.
One Saturday in November, I amassed a huge haul of science fiction written by women at the bookshop in Fergus, Ontario. I had a strong feeling it all came from one person’s library. Sure enough, 3 of the 8 books I bought have a bookplate put there by Lynne White, and one has “read August 1994” in what looks like the same handwriting. I’m glad to think I’m keeping some of her collection together. Two of the books that I bought which had her book plates in them were Powers That Be and Power Lines, by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough.
Powers That Be, by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough
I first read this not long after it first came out, and have often wanted to re-read it. I was pleased to note that it has gay and lesbian characters too. The main reason I liked it was that it is about people communing with their planet. The planet is under threat from a giant mining company. There’s a fair amount of suspense and the scenes where people are interacting with the planet are well done. I also really like the characters. Only one criticism: as far as I know, the Inuit do not do potlatches; that’s a West Coast First Nations thing. I liked the idea of combining the potlatch and the ceilidh to make a latchkay though. One thing the authors did get right with regard to the Inuit was governments moving them around for utterly spurious reasons.
Power Lines, by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough
The sequel to Powers That Be takes in a wider perspective on the planet of Petaybee, and we learn of the evil Shepherd Howling and the nefarious Satok. The planet is again under threat from a huge interstellar mining corporation. Luckily the planet and the people who love it have friends in high places. There are also a lot of cats in this book, which is a very good thing.